If the first Test was one sided, England were quick to say that such underperformance wouldn’t be repeated in Antigua, and they would be a side transformed. Perhaps it was the necessary self-confidence any team ought to have in itself, their ability to match and exceed the opponent. But perhaps instead it spoke of a wider hubris about where they sit in the cricket hierarchy, an inability to accept that they were being outplayed by a team who, in these conditions at least, were simply better than them.
Certainly England didn’t appear to have learned anything, nor did they change their approach with the bat. The same carefree certainty that they could dominate from the off, the same puzzled confusion that it didn’t just fail to work, but instead actually got worse, as scrambled minds struggled to deal with what was happening to them. If one thing has marked England out over recent years, it is an inability to think on their feet and respond to changing circumstances and a different challenge in front of them. Their difficulties faced with pace have become clear, their technical limitations dealing with a quick pitch that bounces even more so.
To a considerable extent it shouldn’t be surprising. The first class game is confined to the margins of the season with tracks that are either green or tired, the home Tests are played all too often on turgid surfaces where the ball rarely gets above knee level without additional effort, while the bowlers focus on getting swing rather than seam, and high pace is neutralised. The lack of genuine quick bowlers in the domestic game isn’t a coincidence, it is a product of the system and the conditions. It always, without exception, is that way. And they have become adept at playing in the conditions created at home for them, while appearing lost when faced with something different.
The misreading of the first Test selection smacked of a structure that expected the pitches in the Caribbean to be as they had been on previous tours – a failure of intelligence gathering if nothing else, as well as one of judgement. The second Test put that right to an extent, but the West Indies smelled blood by that point. No longer was it a case of sneaking a 1-0 lead and preparing dead pitches to hold on to it. This team had England on toast, and were going to demonstrate it again. From here, 3-0 looks far more likely than 2-1.
The selection of Keaton Jennings alone indicated England’s expectations, a player who has had modest success on slow surfaces, and looks technically short on anything else. That was changed here for Joe Denly, but expecting him to put right the problems in the England batting order was always optimistic to say the least.
The quartet of West Indies bowlers tore into England from the start, and it was abundantly obvious that England couldn’t cope with it. Certainly the pitch wasn’t the best, but it’s not hard to imagine previous generations of England batting line ups handling that rather better, and even the much maligned late 1990s version would have attempted to graft rather than hit their way out of trouble.
The folly of the approach was shown by how the West Indies batted in reply. Stuart Broad is one of the more thoughtful observers on the game in the England ranks, but while he was correct that England didn’t have a great deal of luck, there was unquestionably a difference in the chosen line of attack and how they were trying to get the batsmen out. The home team targeted the stumps, England bowled in the channel outside, passing the bat repeatedly for sure, but also limiting the kinds of dismissals possible.
Broad, by far the most impressive of the England bowlers, slightly gave the game away after day two, suggesting that the batsmen had indicated fuller deliveries were easier to score off, but that he felt they should have pushed it up further anyway. Once again, it’s about run prevention rather than wicket-taking as the central mindset, and while Broad is often guilty of that too, with him at least it feels that his mentality is to want to bowl people out. The spell on the second day had all the feeling of being on the cusp of one of those irrestible ones, and that the West Indies survived it is deeply to their credit. That’s not to say for a second that bowlers with 1,000 Test wickets between them don’t know what they’re doing, but there is a default to fall back on, and England do it repeatedly, and when it doesn’t work, it’s striking.
Jonny Bairstow had explained his first innings thrash by saying he never felt in on the pitch. Understandable perhaps given it was the first, early sighter. It was far less so second time around after Darren Bravo had provided such an object lesson in crease occupation. But here again, England were guilty of millionaire shots – expansive drives to straight, good length balls, flailing furiously at anything outside off stump.
Of the top order only Root could be said to have been got out, making him doubly unlucky after the unplayable one he got in the first innings. The others were all guilty of playing T20 shots in a Test match, or leaving a straight one – another indication of mental struggle.
England were certainly beaten by the better team, and there is no disgrace in that. There is in the manner of doing so. Hidebound, narrow minded and incapable of either considering or applying a different method. If they refuse to do so, that is poor. If they are incapable of doing so, that is worse. For it speaks to the very structure of the game the ECB have administered, with few obvious alternatives out there. Cause and effect. Always cause and effect.
As for the West Indies, if this is to prove the start of some kind of revival, however modest, that is cause for celebration. Cricket has too few teams to be casual about losing any more (ICC take note), and the manner of their victory and their style of play spoke to a deep pride in who they are and how they play. The clear burning anger at the perceived lack of respect given to them suggests as much. They have been a joy to behold, and if nothing else, the genuine and slightly bewildered delight of the locals is heart warming.
England have it all, money, a system that could be honed to produce the best that is possible. A deliberate strategy of sidelining that in pursuit of filthy lucre brings us to where we are now. It isn’t that England are a terrible team, but they are a one dimensional one, and one incapable of adapting. The express strategy of focusing on the one day forms of cricket is bearing fruit there, but at the expense of Tests. And when Anderson and Broad call it a day, the naked exposure is going to be even more obvious.
Results like this aren’t catastrophic in themselves, but they are the canary in the mine. The ECB approach has been to euthanise the canary rather than investigate the gas. And that’s why things won’t improve. Get used to it.
Beautifully written and there is not a word with which I would disagree. You have said it all.
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Yup. They are good with dead canaries.
It’s not dead, it’s resting…
Others have said it, but when Darren Bravo is schooling you in restrained shot selection and curbing of naturally expansive attitude… questions probably need to be asked.
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You’re right, of course, but perhaps the problem is more with the unhelpful responses such questions will inevitably receive from the likes of Harrison and Graves. And what of Ashley Giles? Will be be hearing from him anytime soon?
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Are you getting Darren confused with Dwayne? Darren Bravo has always been a stodgy, difficult to dislodge batsman in tests. He’s certainly played a few innings almost as slow as this vs Australia. Career SR of 45.
Bayliss has already chosen when he wants to go, Ramprakash awarded a long term contract at the end of the last English season, ThePlagiarist has now gone into hiding alongside Graves, EmptySuit continues to spout corporate bullsh!t whilst counting our monies into the ECB coffers, the PCB and counties finally wake up that the OneStunnedTurd will mean half the counties death and it won’t even matter if the ECB OneStunnedTurd succeeds or fails… and the Brokeback Mountaineers ECB love-in just shows all that is wrong with our MSM…
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This has just be modded on the G after having been up for 30 mins – why? perhaps Selfey still exists as a mod..
They probably didn’t understand the Brokeback Mountain reference.
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Sadly, that’s probably the only part that got me modded (twice now, even after simplifying it for the shallow mods – lol)
I’ve taken to saying it a lot, but this is normal service now, will continue until the weather goes dry at the vital point in a Home Ashes series and we get a spanking…
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Just reading some of the rugby reports from yesterday, and following England’s win in that you naturally get comment on that basis. And this particular paragraph gave me a wry smile when applied to cricket:
‘There’s one thing about the English psyche which I’ve always found interesting,” wrote the perceptive ex-Ireland international Donncha O’Callaghan on the morning of the game. “Once you tell them how good they are they grow. They thrive on the mindset that they are better than what they are up against.”’
I am currently slumped on the sofa watching a T20 between SA and Pakistan and, to be ho est, I can see no difference between the way they are playing and the performance of the English side. Tip and run.
Jason Holder suspended for the 3rd Test due to a slow over rate.
Obviously that doesn’t happen to England captains though. And they alway bowl their allotted overs…
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FFS – They trounced us in 3 days – if they’d bowled the overs faster you’d have been free of sunburned knees before breakfast! The ICC would never have done this to any of the BIG 3 – how many times did we not bowled the overs under SirC of Breakback?
Last summer it was most days.
I know Dhoni has been banned, but I thought he missed an ODI or two. Tharanga and Chandimal have for Sri Lanka.
I get people are cheesed off, but we’ve banged on about over rates on here for a while. I remember a tour many years ago, where spin was the focus where the team 1 nil up took the over rate down to 10 or 11 an hour. That can’t be allowed.
I get the equality of treatment argument too.
Msd has been banned for tests too for slow over rate.
Only England and oz captains currently exempt from such S ban I think 😊
Perhaps Holder got less leniency as he has been banned before, in 2017 against NZ. That doesn’t excuse the lack of consistency though.
It is absolutely infuriating and discriminatory against fast bowlers. In that match the WI actually had the ball far less than England.
So basically West Indies get penalised for not bowling Chase for 3 overs or so. Because that would have made a massive material difference to the outcome of the game. The same thing happened to Faf du Plessis in the series against Pakistan. Because he did not bowl himself in the second Test, he got suspended for the third. Never mind that at the end of the Test there were 100+ overs unused, because a result had already been attained.
Funny how bowling 81 or 82 overs in a day in England never seems to result in a suspension. And yet time wasting a la Monty and Jimmy in the first Ashes Test of 2009 is perfectly a – okay with the ICC.
I suppose it would be impolite of me to express my amusement about events over the last two tests on an English blog, so I’ll say nothing, the results speak for themselves, (and they’ve got alot to say!) WI sealing the series by hitting Anderson for 6 is beyond perfect.
But the conundrum England faces is delicious. Where do they go from here? They pride themselves on a bold, aggressive style. They’ve packed the team and squad accordingly, they’ve nailed their flag to that mast, and the ship is sinking. The departure of Cook means the last of the old school has gone. But, as Clarke and his merry band of bucaneers found out against swing bowling in England, hitting out more, and harder, doesn’t solve the problem, in fact it only exacerbates it. (The old Australia used to do it, but that’s because they were actually good cricketers, it wasn’t just attitude.) What are they going to do now, call back some of those slow boring openers they discarded? (there’ve been so many I forget their names).
Hope they enjoy those ODI results, because they look pretty screwed in test cricket. Those seeking solace from the SL wins need only look at how SL is faring in Aus to get some perspective.
Bravo, of all people, carried the torch for test cricket in this test, playing exactly the role that was needed to secure the win, alowing his team to do their thing around him.
” What are they going to do now, call back some of those slow boring openers they discarded? (there’ve been so many I forget their names).”
Or Cook, maybe?
Probably the best innings was from Bairstow, who damned the torpedoes and swung for the bleachers. He had some success, but failed to change the course of the game. What conclusion will they draw from that?
Great read TLG, anyone would think you were a professional journalist, out there watching the cricket for purely work related reasons! Certainly think many in the MSM could learn from reading that.
Anyway to return to what I said the other day, I can’t help but feeling that ‘haha’ is the best response to this defeat.
What’s the betting the ashes pitches will be green. Broad and Anderson will bowl well on them. Every so often England will smash a quick 350 odd, which provides enough of a platform to win the test. They will do this just enough to win the ashes and all will be okay in the world. Infuriating…..